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The Book of JamesLesson 11 December 6-12
Read for This Week's Study: James 5:7-12, Rom. 13:11, 1 Cor. 3:13, Luke 7:39-50, Col. 4:6.
You also be patient. Establish your
hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:8,
In Greco-Roman times (as in some places still today), a flurry of activity preceded the coming of a visiting dignitary. Streets were cleared, shop windows cleaned, flowers planted, and crime prevention increased. Every effort was directed at making sure the place looked perfect when the official arrived.
The Greek word parousia, which is used
throughout the New Testament for Christ's
well as in James 5:7-8, is a technical expression for the arrival of a
king or dignitary. If such preparations preceded the arrival of earthly
rulers, should we not make every effort to make our hearts
ready for the coming of our Lord and Savior?
But how do we make such a preparation when we do not know
that day or hour (Matt.
24:36)? What does it mean to be
establish our hearts? How does this relate
to the idea of the
early and latter rain (James
5:7)? Though in the texts for this week the context
appears to be the
end of time, the basic message is so relevant to believers at any time.
Throughout our history and even in our own lives now, we face trials
and suffering that call for us to stand firm in the faith, as did the
prophets of old.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 13.
Sunday December 7
Farmers are directly dependent on the weather for their livelihood. If the weather is too dry or too wet, too cold or too hot, their produce will be adversely affected. In drier countries, such as Israel, the margin of safety is even less, and the importance of plentiful rain at the proper times is significantly greater. Whether grown on a small family farm or a large estate, the crop and its subsequent value are directly dependent on rain.
The early rain, which generally falls in October-November, moistens the ground and prepares it for planting and germination. The latter rain, around March or April, ripens the crops for harvest.
Read James 5:7. (Compare Deut. 11:14, Jer. 5:24, 14:22, Joel 2:23.) What point do the Old Testament passages make about the rain? Why do you think James uses this image in connection with the coming of the Lord? See also Hos. 6:1-3; Joel 2:28-29.
Under the figure of the early and the latter rain,
that falls in Eastern lands at seedtime and harvest, the Hebrew
prophets foretold the bestowal of spiritual grace in extraordinary
measure upon God's church. The outpouring of the Spirit in the days of
the apostles was the beginning of the early, or former rain, and
glorious was the result. . . . But near the close of earth's harvest, a
special bestowal of spiritual grace is promised to prepare the church
for the coming of the Son of man. This outpouring of the Spirit is
likened to the falling of the latter rain; and it is for this added
power that Christians are to send their petitions to the Lord of the
G. White, Our Father Cares,
in the time of the latter rain.
Jesus refers to the
end of the world (Matt.
13:39). Mark 4:26-29 presents a very
similar picture to that of James 5:7. The farmer waits
for the grain to ripen:
first the blade, then the
ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at
once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come
What should that fact that we can distinguish the wheat from the tares only at harvesttime tell us about how we must live out our faith now, before the harvest?
Monday December 8
James 5:8 affirms that Christ's coming is
near. But, after nearly two thousand years, how
are we to understand this promise?
Jesus described the coming kingdom (Matt.
4:17, 10:7, 24:33)
by means of parables to teach the unfamiliar
in terms that are understandable. A close study of these parables
reveals that the kingdom has two aspects: a present, spiritual reality
and a glorious reality still to come. All the apostles fixed their hope
in the imminent coming of Jesus (Rom.
10:25, James 5:9), but they never identity exactly when
that would be.
Like us, they wanted to know when, but Jesus explained that this
information was not best for them to know (Acts
1:6-7). After all, how
zealous would they be in sharing the gospel with the world had they
known that the work would not be finished for almost 2,000 years-and
does James mean when he says
your hearts (James 5:8, NKJV)
and why do you think the
awaited fruit is called
1 Thess. 3:13, 2 Thess. 3:3, 1 Pet.
1:19, 1 Cor.
The word establish
fix firmly or
Our heart is to be so wedded to the Lord that it cannot be moved
despite the pressures brought against it. Becoming settled in the truth
(2 Pet. 1:12),
withstanding temptation, and enduring trials and
suffering for our faith (Acts 14:22)
all contribute to this work.
Spiritual growth is a process that is not always easy but that bears
fruit. Believers, redeemed by
the precious [timios]
blood of Christ (1 Pet.
1:19, NKJV), are of infinite value to
Farmer. The word timios
is also used to describe the
precious stones that
symbolize believers who are
built on Christ, the
stone of God's spiritual temple, the church (1
Cor. 3:11-12). Paul
likens unstable believers, on the other hand, to wood, hay and straw
that will not last and will ultimately be consumed by fire when Christ
comes (1 Cor. 3:12-15).
It is important, therefore, to ask ourselves on
a regular basis whether our energies are really directed toward what we
value most, toward what and who is most precious to us!
Each one's work will become
clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by
fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is
(1 Cor. 3:13, NKJV). Look
at your life. What sort of work is it?
Tuesday December 9
When is the Second Coming? Why are we still
here? It's not surprising that now, in the 21st century, we have
doubters and scoffers. In the history of the church, this is nothing
new. The most dangerous threats to Israel throughout its history came
not from their enemies but from within their own ranks and from within
their own hearts. Likewise as the coming of the Lord approaches,
have far more to fear from within than from without. . . . The unbelief
indulged, the doubts expressed, the darkness cherished, encourage the
presence of evil angels, and open the way for the accomplishment of
Satan's devices.-Ellen G. White, Last
Day Events, p. 156.
James 5:9 warns us,
not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the
judge standeth before the door. What grudges or grumbles
against others, or even against the church, have you had (and maybe at
times with good cause too)? The question is, How have you handled them?
With meekness, humility, and forgiveness, as you have been forgiven by
God (see Luke 7:39-50) or
by worldly standards? Be honest with yourself!
From what we have read earlier in this epistle, it seems that
there were serious challenges among the believers, including favoritism
(James 2:1, 9), evil
surmising (2:4), and evil speaking toward one
4:11), envy (3:14),
quarrels (4:1), and worldliness
Consistently, James directs us to deep solutions to
these problems: faith (James 1:3, 6),
the implanted word
(James 1:21, NKJV),
the law of liberty
(James 1:25, 2:12, NKJV),
single-mindedness and godly wisdom (James
3:13, 17), grace (James
4:6), and clean hands and a pure heart (James
4:8). He also insists that there be outward expressions of
workings (James 2:14-26),
including visiting the afflicted and
forgotten (James 1:27),
showing mercy (James 2:13),
and sowing peace
rather than discord (James 3:18).
Ultimately, we are accountable to God; the One to whom we must give account is the Lord who is the Judge and who will give to everyone according to his work.
As we wait for the Lord's return, what are positive ways you can encourage and uplift others? Why is it important that you do so?
Wednesday December 10
Read James 5:10-11. What do Job and the prophets have in common? Why do you think these examples are highlighted? What personal lessons can we take away from these stories for ourselves amid our own trials?
The prophets of Israel were faithful in preaching the word of
the Lord without altering or compromising it. Hebrews, in extolling the
prophets' fidelity to God, paints a clear picture: they
the mouths of lions [Daniel]. Quenched the violence of fire [Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego], escaped the edge of the sword [Elijah and
Elisha],. . .had . .. imprisonment [Jeremiah and Micaiah],...stoned
[Zechariah, son of Jehoiada],... sawn asunder [Isaiah] . . . [and]
slain with the sword [see 1 Kings
course, Job's sufferings are also proverbial, as is the patience he
exemplified despite derision by his own wife and the censure of those
who came to commiserate with him. What set these heroes of faith and
many others apart from the normal or average follower of God? James
mentions several qualities: patience, endurance, and, above all, hope
and trust in God.
One of the attributes is
also translated as
It refers to the capacity to stand up under difficult circumstances and
trials, to weather whatever life (or the devil!) throws at us. The
prophets endured all their suffering for the word of God patiently
(James 5:10). The word is
used frequently in the New Testament,
including in a reference to Abraham waiting
during his many years of sojourning for God to fulfill His promise to
give him a son (Heb. 6:12, 15).
It also describes Jesus bearing up
patiently through all His sufferings and death on the cross (2 Pet.
Endurance (hypomone), on the other hand, focuses on the end goal of this process, looking forward to the finish line. Job is put forward as the epitome of this quality. Despite all he suffered, Job looked steadfastly toward the final vindication he expected to receive (Job 14:13-15, 19:23-27).
What are you struggling with now? What have you prayed for that has not yet come? How often have you even felt a sense of hopelessness? Think through the trials of some of the Bible characters listed above (or others); imagine how helpless they must have felt at times. What can you draw from their suffering that could help you work through your own?
Thursday December 11
James 5:12. Commentators have puzzled over why James seems to make such
a major issue out of swearing solemn oaths. Even if the intent were to
prohibit all speech of this kind, why would it seem to be urged as
above all that he has spoken about in
this chapter or perhaps in the entire letter? Is it really that big of
an issue? We need to keep in mind what we have seen throughout our
study of this epistle: that James is not content with a superficial
faith or form of religion, despite the caricatures of him that we
sometimes hear. James is thoroughly gospel-oriented, so much so that he
sets standards too high for us to reach without God's forgiving and
empowering grace. Our words reveal what is in our hearts:
of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34,
NKJV). The theology of James is permeated with the
thinking of Jesus,
who commanded us:
Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it
is God's throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by
Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King (Matt. 5:34-35). Some people
apparently even placed the hairs of their head in
pledge to guarantee their words (vs. 36). But Jesus said all of this
was evil: Let your
No. (Matt. 5:37,
Everything belongs to God, including every hair on our head (even if, in some cases, there aren't many!), so "there is nothing that we have a right to pledge, as if it were our own, for the fulfillment of our word. . . .
Everything that Christians do should be as
transparent as the sunlight. Truth is of God; deception, in every one
of its myriad forms, is of Satan.-Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing,
pp. 66, 68. Clearly, Christ was not prohibiting judicial oaths because
He Himself, when placed under oath by the High Priest, did not refuse
to answer, nor did He even condemn the process despite numerous
deviations from sound jurisprudence (Matt.
Several things need to be kept in mind when speaking the truth, first and foremost being that we seldom even know all the truth, even about ourselves, and so we must be humble. Second, when we do speak the truth, it should always be spoken in love and for the edification for those who hear.
Read Ephesians 4:15, 29 and Colossians 4:6. Dwell prayerfully on the powerful message of these texts. Think how different (and better!) your life would be were you, through God's grace, to strictly following these admonitions.
Friday December 12
Study: Read about the experiences of Elijah and Job in
times of testing and its significance for us in the last days in Ellen
From Jezreel to Horeb, pp. 155-166;
Doest Thou Here?
pp. 177-189, in
Prophets and Kings.
the Spirit and Power of Elias,
"To wait patiently, to trust when everything looks dark, is the lesson that the leaders in God's work need to learn. Heaven will not fail them in their day of adversity. Nothing is apparently more helpless, yet really more invincible, than the soul that feels its nothingness and relies wholly on God. . . .
Trials will come, but go forward. This will
strengthen your faith and fit you for service. The records of sacred
history are written, not merely that we may read and wonder, but that
the same faith which wrought in God's servants of old may work in us.-Ellen
G. White, Prophets and Kings,
pp. 174, 175.
grudge not one against another(5:9). Yet people, even other Christians, can do things that bother and annoy us. How can we learn to love, to forgive, to endure, and to rise above many of the
pettythings in life that can make us moody, irritable, and, really, bad witnesses?
Joel realized it was Sabbath. His parents would be in church, praying for him. In the midst of the chaos in the house and outside, Joel knelt in a corner and prayed. He was sure that death was near. He opened the New Testament to the book of Psalms and began reading. Joel again prayed, "Lord, You rescued David from his enemies. If you get me out of this situation alive, I will give my life to You and tell others what You have done for me. Please save me, God!"
One of the locals saw Joel kneeling in the corner, praying and reading his little book. He thought Joel was performing some sort of witchcraft and became frightened. Meanwhile, the youth searched for a way to convince their captors that they were not guilty. One of them remembered the name of the man on whose property they had slept the night before. He told the guard at the door the man's name. "Please find him! He will tell you where we were last night!" Soon the men returned with the man who could verify their story. Within minutes the youth were set free.
One man told Joel, "We would have killed you hours ago, but when we saw you kneeling in the corner doing magic, we became afraid." For a moment Joel was confused. Then he realized that God had used his tears of repentance and his Bible reading to strike fear in the men's hearts and eventually set them free.
The youth left the village, but they were later caught by Mexican authorities and returned to the border of Guatemala. When Joel arrived home, he told his parents what had happened. He learned that on the day he was captured, his mother had sensed a special need and had spent the day in earnest prayer for him.
That night Joel lay awake thinking about everything. He couldn't believe that he had survived. Then he remembered all the other times he should have died but had been rescued. He knew that God had been by his side, even when he rejected God's influence in his life.
Joel kept his promise to God and returned to church. He shared his testimony with the church and asked the members for forgiveness. A few months later he was baptized.
Although he didn't go back to his gang, he did meet some gang members from time to time. When they commented on how he had changed, Joel shared how Christ had saved his life and set him free from drugs, hatred, and Satan's hold. Now he leads a small group in his church and serves as a deacon. He loves to give Bible studies and to share his testimony.
"One thing I wish I could change," Joel says. "I wish I could take off the tattoos that mark my body. But when Jesus comes, He will make my body new and pure and clean. I regret the years I wasted honoring Satan instead of Christ. I want to spend the rest of my life redeeming that time and influencing others to turn to Jesus, who saved my life more than once. He turned my life around, totally around."
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